Blogger: Rachel Kent
Many authors seem to think that deadlines are flexible dates. They’ll come to their agent asking for the agent to get an extension the day before the book is due without any doubt that the extension will be granted.
We agents feel very nervous when we get these emails or phone calls from our clients. Here’s why:
1) Most contracts call for the book to be due on a certain date and if the book isn’t turned in by that day the publishing house has the right to cancel the contract–if that happens the author has to pay back the entire advance. I’ve never had this happen and we all hope it would only happen in an extreme case, but by missing your deadline you put the book deal at risk and if you’ve already spent your advance the risk is even greater because you might not have the money that will be required of you if the publishing house decides to pull the plug.
2) It reflects badly on the author as a professional and puts future contracts at risk. If the author can’t keep a deadline, it shows that that author’s word isn’t as reliable as another author’s might be, so if it comes down to a decision between two books, the publishing house is more likely to offer a contract to an author who turns in his/her books on time. In the same way, it can damage an agent’s reputation too. By bringing an author to a house we are vouching for them as reliable, wonderful people and we feel let down when our clients don’t stick to their agreements.
3) It throws off the schedule set by the publishing house at the time the offer is made. Many departments in a publishing house have set their schedules to fit that book in and when it’s late everyone’s plan is thrown off. This is especially painful for publishing houses when they’ve already been advertising a book’s release and the due date needs to be changed. Marketing dollars have been wasted in this case, and that money isn’t going to be replenished for when the book is finally scheduled to release so the book is more likely to flop.
4) If the publisher says no and they won’t extend the deadline, there’s no time to finish the book when the agent is alerted last minute that there’s a deadline problem.
Now, there are always circumstances that can’t be helped and deadlines are missed. To avoid this as much as possible be sure to start writing your book soon after the contract is signed. Don’t wait to start until the last minute. Allow for a buffer of time to account for the unexpected.
Starting early will also allow you to see early on if the deadline is a problem. That way you can alert your agent and publishing house with enough time for the missed deadline to be less of an issue.
Also, if you think a suggested deadline is going to be a problem at the time the offer is made, don’t sign that contract until your hesitation is addressed. It’s much better to get the date adjusted before the contract is finalized.
Remember to take your deadlines seriously so that you can be the best writer you can be.